For reasons I’ve never understood, my father chose not to work in the tea industry despite living in Siliguri. He chose to run a business dealing in electronics instead. For as long as I can remember, it was tea that fascinated me. And I envied relatives who worked in tea. So even while in school, I knew that it was where I would end up working.  

On graduating from college with a degree in Commerce, I entered the industry. I was told that tea broking had great career prospects and I chose it as my entry point.

For the first six months, I had to go through a training that was extensive, comprehensive and taught me the workings of a broking house. It taught me very little about tea itself. My job required me to taste teas, sell and auction them. I was a point of contact for both producers and buyers. It was a tricky place to be, this in-between tricky place where I had to maintain a balance between producers who demanded high prices for their teas and buyers who negotiated for lower. I still remember being asked to sell a tea at price X, with a note from my seniors saying we risked losing the client if I couldn’t get the desired price. It was tremendous pressure but when I managed to achieve it, the client wrote me a note expressing disappointment that it was not higher! There was just no pleasing anyone!

After 5 years in broking – which I enjoyed thoroughly despite the pressure – I felt I wasn’t learning anything new. Things change very slowly in the tea industry here. And I began to hear more about a company called Teabox and how it was different from other tea companies. The idea of innovation in the tea industry excited me and in early 2015, I joined the Procurement team at Teabox.

 

[bctt tweet=”I have learnt that a single tea can have several characteristics. That the finish of a tea is so important and can leave a lasting impact on the drinker.”]

 

It was going to be a different game working here. No more would I have to deal with pressure from Producers. Instead, I was now meeting them as a buyer and it’s almost funny to find myself on the other side of the table.

As a buyer for Teabox, the eye-opener for me has been the attention to quality. It’s not about the numbers here; the focus is very definitely the tea. Minute details are insisted upon, like checking the moisture of the tea sample, the percentage of flakes in tea, and the flavour profiles of tea.

I remember a Producer of a well-known estate being shocked and offended that his teas did not pass our buying criteria. But there have also been others who view our feedback positively. One Producer felt the quality of his teas had improved since Teabox started buying from him.

Now, my days are spent in keeping track of buying trends, tea season’s, harvest times, prices…During procurement season, I spend a lot of time in the tea gardens, visiting them atleast thrice a week. I do feel it’s a job I am lucky to have, to wake up early and set out to Darjeeling, where the air is crisp and fresh. The views are always fantastic and I cannot imagine another job that would offer me this pleasure. Every year we also visit Assam and the Nilgiris and those are also very interesting trips, with many similarities and even more differences.  

Personally for me, working at Teabox has taught me more about tea than I could have learnt elsewhere.  

I have learnt that a single tea can have several characteristics. That the finish of a tea is so important and can leave a lasting impact on the drinker.

I have learnt too that tea is more than just a drink to so many people, and that a cup of fine tea is well worth the price it commands.

Perhaps, that has been the most important lesson I’ve learnt.

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